Wish of a Lifetime

Wish of a Lifetime’s mission is to foster respect and appreciation for seniors by granting life enriching Wishes. The process starts with a nomination. A Wish of a Lifetime representative then calls to interview the nominator or recipient. The representative submits a Wish Statement and if the wish is granted the recipient is notified of the good news. This is the wish statement for Richard Colbert. Richard is a World War II Merchant Marine veteran that the BROWN was honored to host on this past weekend's cruise.

"Richard Colbert, age 91, is a resident of Sterling House of Urbana in Ohio.  Richard’s Wish of a Lifetime is to see one of the two remaining “Liberty Ships” that were used by the Merchant Marine during WWII.

Richard’s family was deeply involved in WWII.  He had a brother in the Army Air Corp, a brother in the Navy, and a sister in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).  So at the age of 17, Richard heard a radio advertisement for the Merchant Marine and decided to join.  Merchant Mariners played an important, yet often overlooked role in WWII.  Merchant Mariners were tasked with delivering supplies and troops during wartime.  Merchant Mariners were not paid by the military and their pay ended if their ship sank.  They received no death benefits if they died in service and they weren’t even recognized as veterans until 1988, when congress officially recognized WWII Merchant Mariners as veterans, despite the fact they had a higher fatality rate than any of the major branches of service (2 out of every 26 died in service).

Richard served on these Liberty Ships during WWII and his ship frequently saw combat.   The ships were equipped for battle, but the guns were operated by the Navy Armed Guard.  Richard served as an oiler on his ship and served in every major combat theater during the war.  He is always volunteering at his community whenever there is any way to honor the military.  He is known for his “heart of service” and generosity in his community.

Wish of a Lifetime is excited to be sending Richard and his nephew David, who is also a veteran, on a cruise aboard the SS JON W BROWN in Baltimore on June 13th.  The SS JOHN W BROWN is one of only two remaining active Liberty Ships and the crew can’t wait to meet Richard and share the untold story of the Merchant Marine."

Richard's nephew David provided us with some pictures of some of Richard's merchant marine documents.

 

 The day started with Richard and his nephew David arriving at the Maryland Cruise terminal to board the ship for the day.

The day started with Richard and his nephew David arriving at the Maryland Cruise terminal to board the ship for the day.

 General Bradley was next to welcome Richard and to thank him for his service on 7 voyages as a Merchant Mariner.

General Bradley was next to welcome Richard and to thank him for his service on 7 voyages as a Merchant Mariner.

 Hugh Cadzow welcomes Richard aboard on behalf of our Armed Guard Unit, accompanied by a group of Boy Scouts. (Don't worry, Ernie just got caught in the picture on his way to do his routine pre-cruise lifejacket demonstration for the passengers)

Hugh Cadzow welcomes Richard aboard on behalf of our Armed Guard Unit, accompanied by a group of Boy Scouts. (Don't worry, Ernie just got caught in the picture on his way to do his routine pre-cruise lifejacket demonstration for the passengers)

 It wasn't long before Richard found  Abbott And Costello!  

It wasn't long before Richard found Abbott And Costello! 

Calliope Barbershop Quartet also sails with us on cruises. Here they have been joined by the BROWN's own Duff. Richard was singing along and really enjoyed the performance.

 As the JOHN W BROWN sails past Fort McHenry, everyone on board will face the flag and salute while the Star Spangled Banner is sung by one of the Manhattan Dolls.

As the JOHN W BROWN sails past Fort McHenry, everyone on board will face the flag and salute while the Star Spangled Banner is sung by one of the Manhattan Dolls.

We were honored to present Richard with a plaque to commemorate his day on the JOHN W BROWN.

 This dispatch on behalf of Gen Dwight D Eisenhower recognized the Merchant Marine's importance to the war effort. This has not been carried through to most history lessons though.

This dispatch on behalf of Gen Dwight D Eisenhower recognized the Merchant Marine's importance to the war effort. This has not been carried through to most history lessons though.

Richard has other decorations to commemorate his time on Liberty Ships.

Richard visited many ports and shared some stories. In Australia he received permission from the purser to get shore leave to buy new shoes. The pair that he had been wearing were worn out. The sales person tried to sell him all kinds of shoes but he left with two pair of crocodile leather shoes. They got very dirty but lasted him a good long time.

 There is an old naval tradition of holding a line crossing ceremony when the ship passed the equator. Pollywogs, those sailors who hadn't crossed the line, were transformed into Shellbacks.

There is an old naval tradition of holding a line crossing ceremony when the ship passed the equator. Pollywogs, those sailors who hadn't crossed the line, were transformed into Shellbacks.

 Richard and David share a quiet moment after the air show.

Richard and David share a quiet moment after the air show.

 The day wound to a close as we arrived back at the cruise terminal.

The day wound to a close as we arrived back at the cruise terminal.

 Richard, preparing for departure, was saluted by the entire British Regiment aboard, before being escorted down the gangway.

Richard, preparing for departure, was saluted by the entire British Regiment aboard, before being escorted down the gangway.

We received a wonderful compliment from David after the cruise. "Uncle Dick and I thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality we received during our visit.  As he said, “We got treated like royalty!”  Everyone there is doing an incredible job to fulfill your mission of honoring the builders, mariners and Naval Armed Guard that sailed on Liberty Ships."

It was absolutely our pleasure to host both Richard and David. For all that our veterans have done for us we are happy to be able to offer a small something in return.

 

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

 

 

Back to Top ↑